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Fast start
Band has taken big strides in short time

It took less than a year for the Daniel Johnson Band to go from playing their first paid show on a tractor-trailer in below freezing weather to performing at an Augusta nightclub.

The foursome had performed primarily at house parties in late 2010 and the beginning of 2011.

On Nov. 18, the band played at The Country Club Dance Hall & Saloon, a venue known for attracting talented country artists.

"It's the biggest place I've wanted to play so far," said Daniel Johnson, the lead singer and acoustic guitar player. "Eleven months later we're playing here. That says a lot about our momentum."

Along with Johnson, the group includes Chris Cook on drums, Lee Hopkins on lead guitar and Logan McCullough on bass.

Only Johnson and Cook, both from Thomson, were members of the band originally.

"We were playing in a garage in Statesboro," Cook said. "We were really just a jam band."

McCullough and Hopkins joined the group within a few weeks of each other in early fall of 2010. Once they came on, everything started fitting together, Johnson said.

"The whole thing started at once," he said. "For a month or two in 2010 it was just practicing, hanging out and developing a sound."

Though they didn't know each other at the time, all four band members attended Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. Hopkins and Johnson have graduated. Cook will graduate this month and McCullough is still a student.

Neither Hopkins nor Johnson learned to play before college. McCullough had always been interested in joining a band but the opportunity didn't arise until his sophomore year when he met Johnson.

"I played sports for most of my life," McCullough said. "When sports ended, music was the only thing I wanted to do."

They practiced for a few weeks then went their separate ways during the holidays. Soon after the start of the new year, they met with Randy Fields, another GSU graduate who wanted to become the band's manager.

Though they were skeptical at first, Fields won them over with knowledge of the music business and the assurance they would no longer have to worry about booking gigs. Two weeks later they had business cards and a Web site.

"I didn't want to come in and do it my way," Fields said. "I came in at ground zero. They definitely weren't set in their ways yet."

DJB is the first band he has managed, and they remain his primary focus for marketing and booking.

"Randy has grown along with us," Hopkins said.

The group released a three-song demo over the summer. They plan to put out a six-song EP of original music in early 2012 and organize a tour around the album.

At The Country Club, as at most shows, they played a number of party songs and singalongs, but they also debuted their single Runaway.

"The song's kind of about when life's getting you down, what if you just got up and left it all behind," Johnson said.

While he does much of the songwriting, the other band members often contribute a few lyrics or something specific to their instrument.

For inspiration, they draw from wide-ranging genres, from McCullough's affinity for alternative punk to Hopkins' and Cook's love for classic rock.

"I'm the biggest country advocate," Johnson said. "I might write something that's completely country, but after I bring it to them it's something totally different."

He describes their music as a throwback to Southern rock.

"What separated us from the dime-a-dozen groups is that I started writing my own music in college," Johnson said. "We started developing our own songs, and that separated us from the groups that were only doing covers."

He said that's what has made the difference between remaining content playing shows at small, local venues to the idea of pursuing music further.

They enjoy playing shows for the college-age crowd, and their next goal is to play in Athens, a city they respect for its music scene.

"It's been known for a long time that really good bands come out of Athens," Hopkins said.

DJB has played in Savannah, Swainsboro, Oak Park, Twin City and St. Simons, as well as anywhere within a 45-mile radius of Statesboro. The show at The Country Club was their third in Augusta.

They plan to continue performing close to home, with their sights set on Athens, Atlanta and Columbia before branching out.

Web posted on Thursday, December 01, 2011

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